*The man who brings Elmo’s voice and gestures to life is about to have the spotlight all to himself for a change.
Kevin Clash is the subject of “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” a documentary arriving in theaters Oct. 21 and coming to PBS’ “Independent Lens” in April 2012.
Directed by Constance “Connie” Marks and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the film has Clash, 51, tracing his life story – growing up in Baltimore, being teased for his fascination with puppetry and yearning to someday work for Jim Henson, whose team is responsible for the non-human characters on Sesame Street.
Clash was able to reach that dream in 1984, joining Sesame Street as an official puppeteer for a number of characters – his biggest, of course, being Elmo. While folks close to Clash swore that Elmo is really his alter-ego, Clash says he actually borrowed traits from his mother and father to shape the character.
“It’s my mom’s spunkiness and militantness, and it’s my dad’s creativity and sweetness about him. And those combinations came together in me, and then I brought it out in this little red monster,” he said during a panel for the film in Beverly Hills. “So it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity of having a character that has become so successful on Sesame Street. We all know in our business none of us have crystal balls. And I tell ya, I went through a lot of characters, a lot of puppets on Sesame Street that did not work at all. And fortunately, this little red monster was dropped in my hands and I came up with something that everybody loved.”
In the bonus audio below, Clash takes us back to the moment he first realized his talent was something special. [Scroll down to watch a clip from the film.]